We’re in process of setting up 70 acres as a mixed farm, haemorrhaging money and failing to meet all our self-set deadlines. Here are a few things I’ve learnt since moving to Puggle Farm and working on the new place:
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30 Nov 2011 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Farm
A great way to spend money, not a great way to make money.

Mattock
Simply hard, hard work, no matter what you use it for (except holding open a gate).

Livestock
Sometimes live, usually healthy, sometimes sick, and sometimes not alive. A farmer’s greatest responsibility.

Siphon
Easier to do when you’re a teenager and mucking about with short hoses than it is when you have 200 metres of 40mm irrigation pipe leading up and over the dam wall and the pump is broken.

Pigs
As cute as a child and as scary as a school bully (depending a bit on the pig’s age and gender). Indiscriminately destructive and very good eating.

Milk
A gift from a cow/goat/sheep that is hard won if they don’t want to give it to you.

Grass
The basis of good soil, and mixed farming.

Trees
Shade, ground stabilisers, scratching posts, fence wreckers, firewood, windbreaks and even a crop if you have the right ones.

Tractor
A burden and a blessing. Expensive, yet necessary. Doing things by hand or horse often simply isn’t an option.

Frost
A killer, at times, though needed for many cool climate fruits, though not late in the season. A bad one here wiped out a neighbour’s vineyard.

Sheds
You never have enough of them.

Hay
Money in the bank. (Or stored soil fertility, as many now believe.)

Fencing
Might as well burn $100 notes.

Income
Farm income? What’s that? Those who sell to supermarkets or have seasonal crops are often paid only twice a year, and, for all farmers, farm income is very, very fickle.

Gardening
Weeding.

Weather Reports
Essential reading or listening.

Sleet
The lambs will be born.

Rain
A blessing and a curse, it all depends on quantity and timing. I think it’s probably easier to farm with rain than without. (Though I would say that, as I’ve never farmed without. It’s raining, yet again, as I type.)

Star Pickets
More useful than you first think, and nigh on impossible to remove and keep straight by hand in hard-baked summer soil unless you have a special gadget.

Farmers
Livestock whisperers. Handymen. Subdued. Mechanics. Droll. Plumbers. Tough. Rarely idle. Good with a shovel and a tractor. Problem solvers. Underpaid. Ageing as a workforce. Always there when you need help. Resourceful. Tinkerers. Observant. Late adopters. Undervalued. Judgemental. Far more intelligent and educated than some city people would think. Great to have as neighbours. Agents who act on our behalf. Miracle workers.